Lebanon’s capital Beirut was once considered the “Paris of the Middle East.” It was already deep into a decades-long decline when the ammonium nitrate exploded on August 4th blasting a 141-foot-deep crater into the port city. The toll, with hundreds dead, thousands wounded, and more than 300,000 homeless is a catastrophe for its citizens and challenging to the survivability of Lebanon as a nation. The explosion registered as a 3.3 earthquake on Cyprus, around 125 miles west.
Even without a peace treaty, Israel in its customary way, immediately reached out to Lebanon despite a history beset with conflict and war due in large part to terrorist Hezbollah’s embedded hatred. Quickly after the mammoth explosion rocketing a mushroom shaped cloud into the skies, offers for help came from Israeli leaders. President Rivlin remarked, “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”
The Israel Defense Forces are most often portrayed as a child-killing infantry battalion or an air force purposely dropping bombs on civilians. Yet, its true outlook is reflected in an Israel Defense Forces spokesman’s statement, “This is the time to transcend conflict.” However, like any democracy, Israeli opinions differ. Some are sympathetic in spite of the past conflicts. Some object to reaching out, especially with the Israel-Lebanon border heating up again. And others are resentful, saying that Israel is not giving its home front enough help in the Covid-19 crisis. Beleaguered Prime Minister Netanyahu in recent remarks to Knesset summed up Israel’s national character saying, “We distinguish between regime and people. That is our way.’’ Its offers to help enemy countries are almost always turned down though. Some may be surprised at the Lebanese refusal of aid
It is no surprise that hate for Israel takes precedence over leaders wanting help for its own citizens. Much of what the world hears about Israel is another kind of blast, an ammonium nitrate of lies and propaganda which has produced an unjust crater of hatred. The propaganda that too many in the world embrace is a far cry from Israel’s embrace of “repairing the world.”
In their agony and anger, thousands of Lebanese citizens filled the streets protesting their corrupt government which includes the powerful Hezbollah terror party. For decades, elite officials from several different parties stole monies collected in the import-based economy, divvied it up, and lived the good life at the expense of its citizens; a kleptocracy with politicians stealing money from its government. The protesters reacted with elation when the Lebanese Prime Minister and his cabinet resigned. The hastily convened donor conference of nations has pledged $298 million dollars for immediate relief but only billions will restore the suffering nation.
In the meantime, Israelis have a lot to offer in expert skills which they have developed out of necessity having faced decades of terror against them. Among others, IsraAid, Mashav, and the IDF’s humanitarian aid unit have offered important help to most of the world’s nations. They are superstars of humanitarian aid.
For instance, in Nepal they set up Honey Aid giving women an income through beekeeping. In Lesbos, Greece, where thousands of refugees escaped the Syrian civil war, IsraAid set up The School of Peace for 4,000 refugee children. Kenya has benefitted numerous times with help year after year. In Haiti’s 2010 devastating earthquake the IDF medical unit set up the first field hospital on the ground, where they treated a thousand Haitians, performed more than 300 surgeries and delivered 16 babies, one of them named “Israel” to honor the IDF.
Marred with decades of civil war and unrest, hatred intensified from Hezbollah when they started spreading its Iran-backed tentacles into every sector of Lebanese society in the mid-eighties. Their control of the population made it almost impossible to kick them out with their 200,000 missiles. And with more than 25,000 fighters, it is a medium-sized army, and stronger than the Lebanese army.
Of course, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah claims no responsibility for the explosion, but speculation is rife that Hezbollah at the least knew about the chemical storage in said warehouse and was stockpiling it for explosive attacks against Israel. What is fact though is weapons storage and factories located underground in urban areas and weaponry purposely placed in civilian homes in the south. Civilians fill an important function for Hezbollah as human shields.
Jewish News reports the expert opinion of Lt. Col. (Res) Sarit Zehavi, “Any way you look at it, Hezbollah is involved. Even if it is just a regular accident, which this [the port blast] probably is, Hezbollah controls both the airport and sea-port in Lebanon so it’s responsible.”
Unfortunately, with Hezbollah’s control, traumatized Lebanese citizens may not benefit from Israel’s humanitarian outreach. Hopefully, they will not control the pledged emergency money coming in to Lebanon from France, USA, Qatar, Russia, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and Germany.
A few years ago, I observed first-hand Israel’s humanitarian outreach when I staffed a group of Christian leaders for a briefing from officials at Ziv Hospital. Afterward, they allowed us to meet and speak with Syrian adults and children through a translator. From the Israeli-Syrian border the IDF had transported the gravely wounded to Ziv Hospital in Safed. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, most Syrians hate Israelis. I will always remember what one of the wounded Syrian teenagers said to us. “We were taught to hate Israel, but we know now they are our friends.”
The words of the Syrian teenagers is an expression of one of Israel’s true purposes when the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob declared in Isaiah 49:6, “I will make you a light unto the nations to bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
A Light unto the Nations is a title that will endure forever.
Hopefully, the Lebanese might be able to experience the same understanding that the Syrian teenagers received under the care of compassionate Israelis.